The high holy season has arrived. As a pastor, you'd think that I was talking about Holy Week and Easter.
As a parent of an elementary student and middle school student, I am talking about the high-stakes testing that is FSA, also known as Florida Standards Assessments. Let me just say right up front -- I am NOT a fan.
I believe this is one of those cases where the educational system could learn something from the church.
I am a product of the last generation who learned the faith via catechesis. We were given a set of questions that came with specific answers.
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We studied the questions.
We studied the answers.
We were examined.
And, if we passed, we were considered members of the church in the good standing of the faith.
Then we became adults and left the church in enormous numbers.
How could that have happened?
We studied. We knew the right answers. We said the right things.
It happened because none of that was real, tangible, passionate.
It wasn't life-transforming and had little to do with following Jesus and pursuing a life after His heart.
Church became just another place of doctrine and dogma, that didn't allow for questions, for challenges, for creativity and expression.
That's essentially what FSA is.
We are teaching our children to take a test.
We are not teaching them to love learning.
My generation wasn't taught to love the Lord, we were taught to recite doctrine. Back then it was a numbers game -- how many people could you get into the pews and on the membership rolls. There was extraordinary pressure for pastors to compete to prove their worth.
It had so little to do with raising up disciples of Jesus and everything to do with having the largest church in town. And as soon as my generation had the freedom, many of us checked out.
Now, as I teach the next generation about our faith, I don't ask them to recite complete chapters of books of the Bible or to answer all 107 (that's the shorter one) questions of the catechism.
Instead, I take them with me into our local community to serve the poor, to visit the sick, to feed the hungry.
I invite them to experience Christ, to know that they are loved by the Creator of the world, and that even though they are going to make some wrong and sometimes painful decisions in this life, they are redeemable and worthy of salvation.
I don't want Jesus to be some theory, some answer to a test.
I want Jesus to be very real, very much alive to the next generation.
Here's the deal: I absolutely believe my son should know how to and be able to read. I also happen to believe my daughter should have a rock-solid foundation in math and science -- particularly since she plans on being a doctor.
What I want more than that is for them to want it for themselves, to be excited about it, and desire it and seek it out.
That kind of passion is created when they are engaged, when they can see in a hands-on way the opportunities that are going to be open to them because they can read, because they have concrete math and science skills that are applicable and useful in the real world.
Right now all they know is how to take a test and if they don't do well they fail, their teacher fails, and their school fails. That kind of pressure doesn't foster a love of learning, it breeds resentment that leads to a departure from the very heart of what is trying to be accomplished. The church tried this approach a generation ago and guess what?
We failed. At least that's what the data shows.
The Rev. Hope Lee, lead pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church and The Well, can be reached at 941-794-6229, firstname.lastname@example.org or biggreenchurch.org. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald written by local clergy members.